A squeegee is used in screen printing to force the ink through the image section of the screen (holes that have not been blocked out) to transfer it onto the support. In stencil printing, it is a tool that affects the finish of the work directly.
A squeegee consists of a squeegee blade attached to a wooden or aluminum handle. This blade is commonly made of resin or synthetic rubber containing urethane or silicon. The urethane rubber type is widely used as it is less prone to wear and offers excellent durability and solvent resistance. Blades are available in various levels of hardness and may be selected according to their purpose after giving thought to factors such as the viscosity of the ink and the mesh count of the screen. Commercial blades are sold in the range of 50 (soft) to 90 (hard) durometers. Softer blades are suited for giving body to the ink and harder blades for printing images with fine details. However, printing styles can be adjusted by the amount of force applied, so a set of blades with medium hardness would normally suffice. Moreover, the sharpness of the blade edge is a decisive factor in the finished print because when printing, the squeegee is moved so that the blade edge presses evenly against the screen. Flaws in the print are often caused by tiny defects in the edge. A damaged edge will create inconsistencies in the amount of ink applied to the finished surface and will hinder the production of uniform prints. Squeegees must be handled and managed with care so that they are not damaged. If an edge is chipped or has become rounded due to wear, it can be sharpened with a belt sander or wet and dry sandpaper.
When choosing a squeegee, choose one that is at least 10cm shorter than the inside dimension of the screen frame. Wooden handle squeegees can be cut to the desired length. This is useful when working with frames that are not of standard size and for adjusting the length to suit the size of the printing surface. Those with an aluminum handle can be disassembled to remove and clean the rubber blade. When printing, hold the squeegee so that it is tilted diagonally to your side and pull it towards you from the far end of the screen. The key to obtaining a beautiful print is to apply constant pressure vertically against the screen, moving the squeegee at a constant speed. Spreading ink on the entire edge of the blade will help to reduce friction and allow it to travel smoothly over the screen. Squeegees can be purchased at specialist stores selling stencil printing materials and art supply stores that handle printing supplies.
- Types of squeegee blades